Electrophysiological evidence of mal-adaptation to error in remitted depression

Lilian Y. Li*, James E. Glazer, Fiona Helgren, Carter J. Funkhouser, Randy P. Auerbach, Stewart A. Shankman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Identifying risk markers for major depressive disorder (MDD) that persist into remission is key to address MDD's high rate of recurrence. Central to MDD recurrence are the disorder's negative information processing biases, such as heightened responses to errors, which may subsequently impair abilities to monitor performance and adjust behaviors based on environmental demands. However, little is known regarding the neurophysiological correlates of post-error adaptation in depression. The current study investigated event-related potentials (ERPs) and behavioral performance following errors from a flanker task in 58 participants with remitted MDD (rMDD) and 118 healthy controls (HC). Specifically, using trial-level data, we tested: (a) the impact of errors on response-locked ERPs of the current and post-error trials (error-related negativity [ERN] and correct response negativity [CRN]) and (b) longer-term adaptation to errors (ERN/CRN) over the course of the task. Compared to HC, rMDD participants showed a larger ERN to the current trial and smaller habituation in ERN over time. On trials immediately following errors, rMDD participants showed slower reaction times that were predicted by the previous-trial ERN amplitude but comparable accuracy to HC, suggesting a deficient ability to disengage from errors and/or a compensatory effort to mitigate accuracy decrements. Critically, this pattern of responding: (a) was concurrently associated with greater levels of anhedonia symptoms, more severe MDD history, and interpersonal impairment (but lower impairment in life activities) and (b) predicted more anhedonia symptoms at one-year follow-up. Collectively, a hyperactive performance monitoring system may be a useful risk marker for future MDD recurrence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108555
JournalBiological Psychology
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • Anhedonia
  • Depression
  • Error-related negativity
  • Multilevel modeling
  • Performance monitoring
  • Post-error adaptation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • General Neuroscience


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